Although seeds can be planted straight into the ground in your garden, many will grow better if they are started indoors in a more protected environment. This also means that you can get a head start on growing plants before the last frost in your area. You should buy high quality seeds from a local supplier or you can order seeds from various mail order catalogs. You should do a little bit of research about what can grow in your climate and in the type of soil that you have in your garden. You may commonly see people referring to their ‘zone
’ in gardening forums and discussions. This numeric value refers to a popular classification used to describe soil hardiness
which was first developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and categorizes geographic areas based on annual winter temperatures. You can find out what zone you are in by using the following charts:
Most vegetables are not planted outside in the garden until after the last frost, when there is less danger that your seedlings will be damaged by the cold. However, some vegetables are cool season
and should be planted early for harvest before or after the heat of summer hits. When you purchase seeds, they should give you a good idea on the packet when to start sowing seed along with other useful instructions such as plant spacing, watering and fertilization instructions and when to harvest.
To get started sowing plants indoors some of the basic things you will need include flat trays, cell trays or pots and either a good quality potting mix, which you can buy or mix yourself, or a soilless mix. A soilless mix is just what it suggests, it isn’t soil but can be moss, bark, perlite or vermiculite (which are naturally occurring minerals). You will also need some space to get set up, the size depends on how much you want to grow. Seeds do not generally need light to germinate, just a warm place and suitable moisture. Most seeds will germinate quickly at 75–80°F. When the seedlings emerge you will need to either provide them with an artificial light source or place them in a bright window where they will get lots of sunlight.
Once your seedlings are big enough to be moved to their permanent home in the garden, you should slowly get them used to being outdoors, a process known as hardening off
. Take them outside during the day for a few hours and bring them back inside, increasing the time they spend outside gradually until they spend most of the day outside at which point they are ready for transplanting. The young plants can be gently planted in a prepared bed which has been dug and composted if required. I hope that this gives you an idea of how to get started!